Greetings Browns fans. I'm a little late, as per usual, with this week's post, but what counts is that I got it up before the weekend started. Not a ton to report concerning the week prior - most of the news outlets have done the usual pre-camp speculation writing along with the also usual hand-wringing. Perhaps the most interesting of these look-ahead articles are Cory Felegy's assessment of the ownership's record ten years in - check it out here - and Christ Steuber's piece on the Brown's top young talent (which you can read here).
Since we last met up here on the internets to discuss the Browns, the team has released the details concerning training camp. Practice begins at 8:45 AM on Saturday, August 1st, with public sessions conducted throughout the next 3+ weeks. Browns Backers Weekend is August 7-9, the Brown & White scrimmage is on August 9th, the first home pre-season game is on August 22nd (versus the Lions), and camp closes to the public after August 24 with the final home pre-season game coming against the Titans on August 29th. For more info on all things training camp related, check out the team's official site on the camp here.
In other news, the status of the Browns top four draftees. Apparently, the team is very close to an agreement with top choice Alex Mack (Center, California), but little progress has been made with the next three (e.g., receivers Robiskie and Massaquoi and linebacker Veikune). Given that rookies are slated to report TODAY, this seems like a sorta big deal, but as long as Mack is in by Monday and Veikune gets himself in there not much later, I'm cool. Receivers are receivers and they can do what they do, but offensive linemen and linebackers have a lot more learning to do before they can fit into the system, so every day they are out they put the whole team behind. I guess this conclusion is for the best, since according to all reliable press reports, the Browns are absolutely nowhere with Brian Robiskie. Progress with Veikune seems to be better, and I'm pretty clueless about where things stand with Massaquoi.
Finally, it looks like fan favorite Josh Cribbs might get a little happier, with reports that he and management are meeting about contract renegotiations. Personally, I'm torn about this. You sign a contract for x number of years, you ought to play it out, I think. But the NFL is weird, and the players association doesn't really help younger non-star players out, so if you prove awesomeness beyond expectation, you might as well throw out the possibility of a new guarantee. We'll see how things go, I suppose, though it'd be a shame to lose such an obvious talent if we can get it done for a reasonable amount of money. And if anyone is in need of suggestions for which sofa to check for change in, I vote we trade Right Wing Quinn for a bag of kicking tees and use the salary savings to make Cribbs happy and bring in another running back.
Before we get to today's subject du jour, one last bit of non-news: there is still absolutely no resolution regarding the starting quarterback derby. Surprise, surprise. At least my heart is mildly warmed by recent positive reports about D.A.s health and preparation, and particularly by this report endorsing the benching of Right Wing Quinn.
OK, now to the meat of the day: a look at the linebackers and secondary. If, as I said last week, the offensive line is the most solid of all position categories for the team, today's areas are the ones where things are the most vulnerable. Let's start with the linebackers.
There is a ton of athletic talent at this position, but my central concern is whether it is the right talent for the way the Browns want to play. On the outside, we have players like Kamerion Wimbley and Alex Hall - both with a ton of physical skill. Time will tell if they get the game down tight. This is especially the case with Wimbley as the pressure is mounting for him to prove he has more in his toolkit than the old out-race the OT move. As Chris Pokorny notes, other teams long ago figured this one out, which is why Wimbley's last two years haven't equaled his rookie numbers. Veikune and Bowens also look to be solid (assuming Veikune makes it to camp, that is), but without significant upgrade to the skills we know already exist, the best I think this unit can hope for is adequate.
Unfortunately, the inside is more problematic. Mangini seems to be in love with D'Qwell Jackson, but I'm not really sure why. I mean, dude isn't terrible, but neither is he great. We should be looking to bring in someone next year, whether through free agency or the draft, to hold down the middle in a monstrous way for the long term. For now, Jackson at his best is good enough for now. I don't see Eric Barton as any type of solution at the other inside position, and by end of season I expect Beau Bell or rookie Kaluka Maiava to replace him. Indeed, the Bell-Maiava contest might be one of the best and under-covered stories in training camp.
As a unit, the linebackers are decent when all pistons are firing, but that is not nearly good enough with the importance the team's chosen defensive coverage places on the middle rung of the ladder. Even if those that need to step up do (Wimbley, Bell, Jackson), we'll be in deep need for a major acquisition in 2010 at the position.
In the defensive secondary, we have three of four starters back - for better or for worse, with Abram Elam poised to fill about on par the void left by Sean Jones. Like the linebacker corps, there are some guys who need to step up and prove they are worth national-level attention. In particular, I'm thinking of Brodney Pool at safety and Eric Wright at corner. I think both these fellas have good years ahead in them, but they gotta put it on the field now. Brandon McDonald at corner is the biggest question mark I have for the team, though I'm a little nervous at how that question will be resolved. Rod Hood and his Super Bowl experience leads a trio of new veteran acquisitions, and the re-signing of CB Favorite Mike Adams for his bone-crunching hits and versatility makes me feel a little better, but at the end of the day, if the linebacker spot looks to be adequate at best, these guys are going to face challenges all season long, and give up big plays game after game. Hopefully, there won't be all that many and the offense can do its part to keep the team in the game. Look for a lot of changes to be made throughout the year and plenty of call-in show lines burning up with bitching about this subject.
Once again, that's where things stand. Sorry today wasn't quite so positive, but no reason to bullshit a bullshitter, right? Next week I'll check back in with the scoop on the running game, special teams, and some pre-camp speculation of my own.
Moving to Cleveland a couple years ago for work, I soon learned how rich the cultural community around town was. Whether rock shows or poetry readings, edgy gallery openings or string quartets, Clevo has it all. I do my best to bring you some coverage and advocacy about what I think you should check out, support, and exploit.